After dispatching two other very strong teams in the semifinals, these six players have found themselves in a position where they were just one team booster draft away from winning it all. Javier Dominguez, (12) Márcio Carvalho and Luis Salvatto was the team with the stronger portfolio, but that doesn't mean that Frank Karsten, Brent Vos, and Bas Melis didn't stand a chance. All weekend, they have proved that they work well together as a team and were well-versed with the intricacies of Kaladesh. After navigating through 701 other teams, all that stand in their way was one another.
Let's take a look at the individual matches between both very talented teams!
Finals C: Bas Melis vs. Luis Salvatto
Melis had assembled a greedy three-color deck which was designed to benefit from all the gold cards he had picked up. Using a pair of Prophetic Prisms, he was able to splash white for Revoke Privileges and a pair of Restoration Gearsmith.
Salvatto's White-Blue deck looked pretty solid. Cloudblazer and two copies each of Glint-Sleeve Artisan and Propeller Pioneer are very synergistic with Acrobatic Maneuver, Shrewd Negotiation, Wispweaver Angel and even Paradoxical Outcome! Two Gearseeker Serpent would also serve as key win conditions in the event of a stalemate.
In Game 1, Melis opened with Inventor's Goggles, Kujar Seedsculptor and Highspire Artisan to hold off Salvatto's Propeller Pioneer and Cloudblazer. However, Salvatto was ready with Shrewd Negotiation and cunningly exchanged a lowly Servo token for the opposing creature with reach. This cleared the path for his fliers which spelt trouble for Melis. The next turn was equally backbreaking for Melis, who used Wispweaver Angel to “blink” Cloudblazer and that advantageous play netted Salvatto Gearseeker Serpent to lock up Game 1.
History threatened to repeat itself as a pair of Highspire Artisans proved effective in holding back both Salvatto's Wind Drake and Propeller Pioneer. Melis added Bastion Mastodon to the board which Salvatto was happy to gang-block and trade away. After all, he had the stronger late game and all he needed to do was to survive.
Facing only a pair of 1/4s, Gearseeker Serpent crashed into the red zone twice. Just like that, Melis was down to 10 life. At this point, it was obvious that Melis was severely land-flooded because he had passed his last few turns with no action at all! In the final two turns, all Salvatto needed to do was make Gearseeker Serpent unblockable to secure the first match win for his team.
Luis Salvatto defeats Bas Melis. Let's slide one seat and watch Brent Vos and Márcio Carvalho, the Limited Master in action!
Finals B: Brent Vos vs. (12) Márcio Carvalho
Brent Vos, like Bas Melis, was also playing in his very first Grand Prix Top 8. However, that didn't stop him and his teammates from beating international superstars (14) Ondřej Stráský, (10) Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, and Shahar Shenhar. Vos was waiting for his time to shine and this was his chance to steal the show. Since Melis had already lost his match, the pressure was on both him and Karsten to cause the upset.
The pressure is on Brent Vos to win his match.
However, things weren't about to get any easier for him, because seated opposite him was (12) Márcio Carvalho. The last time Carvalho played a Limited Grand Prix, it was in London a month ago and he went home the Champion. Naturally, the reigning Limited Master and World Championship finalist had high hopes at this point and anything less than a victory might just be very disappointing.
“If I do end up winning this one, it means that I'm two-out-of-two in Kaladesh Limited. It will make me happy beyond words that I achieved it with Javier and Luis.”
Márcio Carvalho is not happy with his deck and tries his best to stay in the game.
His Blue-Green deck, however, looked far from satisfactory. Not even close. Aside from Rashmi, Eternities Crafter, there wasn't really any business going on. His two and three drops were lackluster and unexciting and he had a lack of removal or good combat tricks. Double Wild Wanderer could accelerate him into...
Or a Riparian Tiger.
“The only hope is that I land a 6/6 and it goes all the way. I don't really have many other win conditions. It is going to be difficult to win and I really, really need to be carried right now. No worries though, I believe in Salvatto and Dominguez!”
Opening with Attune with Aether and gumming up the board with Aether Theorist and Highspire Artisan, Vos was unable to mount any profitable attacks. This allowed him to land Arborback Stomper and Cowl Prowler. However, Vos was not to be outdone and threatened to race with Multiform Wonder.
When Arborback Stomper charged into the red zone, Vos had no blocks and dropped to 15. On the counterswing, it was untapped with Ornamental Courage in an attempt to ambush four incoming attackers. This forced Vos to fire off a nonlethal Inspiring Charge or suffer heavy losses.
Untapping and dropping Cowl Prowler, Carvalho kept his fingers crossed. Vos was playing white and there was always the possibility of a devastating Fumigate. Nope, not this time. Vos eventually got trampled to death by the pair of beasts, to the relief of Carvalho.
In Game 2, Carvalho generated 3 energy with Sage of Shaila's Claim but had no follow up other than Durable Handicraft. Vos punished the lack of plays by flooding the board with Trusty Companion, Glint-Sleeve Artisan and Multiform Wonder.
When Carvalho finally arrived at 5 mana, Arborback Stomper proved to be an effective deterrence for everything on the ground, except that Vos didn't actually control anything relevant on the ground anymore!
Both players were down to one game apiece, but the Grand Prix had concluded before they could begin their third game!
Finals A: Frank Karsten vs. Javier Dominguez
Frank Karsten once shared that “he would like to win a Grand Prix at least once in his lifetime.”
Despite the Hall of Famer's decorated career and reputation, it was difficult to imagine that he had yet to capture a title. In recent times, Karsten had become a steady fixture on the coverage team, which meant that he had less opportunities to compete. After a respite of over a decade, Karsten found himself his 7th lifetime Top 8. Naturally, a lot of spectators and fans were rooting for him to secure a long-awaited victory. However, Karsten admitted that his Black-Red deck wasn't fantastic.
Frank Karsten tries very hard to beat the Black-Red mirror.
“My deck is definitely not great but it is pretty similar to what I've been playing all weekend. You know, a bunch of random creatures with some removal and tricks. I just need to be careful and make sure to optimize the combat step for the best chance of winning. Anyway, my goal was to get them (Brent and Bas) to the Top 4 and qualify them for the Pro Tour. No matter what happens, I'm happy to be able to go with them.”
On the other side of the table was Javier Dominguez, the reigning Spain National Champion. This was his fifth lifetime Grand Prix Top 8 with the most recent one being Grand Prix Costa Rica earlier this year. This also happened to be his third visit to the Top 8 within this calendar year, making 2016 an excellent year for him through and through. He already has an individual victory under his belt and a win here will make it his second title.
Dominguez's Red-Black deck was very aggressive and relied heavily on Vehicles and their natural synergy with Spireside Infiltrator and three copies of Night Market Lookout. Aradara Express, Ballista Charger and Renegade Freighter were crucial in this Black-Red mirror match.
With that said, Karsten kicked off Game 1 with Metalspinner's Puzzleknot and Spireside Infiltrator. However, Dominguez was already ahead on the board with Night Market Lookout and Embraal Bruiser. Both three-powered creatures traded and Dominguez added Foundry Screecher. Prakhata Pillar-Bug from Karsten would prove to be helpful in this match because it had a very relevant lifelink ability.
However, Karsten seemed to be falling behind as he soon faced Aradara Express accompanied by Multiform Wonder. Apparently there were two copies in the finals draft, one on each team. Karsten was eventually forced into chump-blocking mode and continued to feed creatures to Aradara Express. Playing it safe and keeping Multiform Wonder back home, there seemed to be no way for Karsten to recover.
The Black-Red mirror was more about attrition and having durable creatures. With that in mind, Night Market Lookouts exited for grindier cards such as Fortuitous Find and Lawless Broker. Still, Dominguez had the deck with the lower curve and busted out of the gates with Ruinous Gremlin and Embraal Bruiser. Karsten replied with Pia Nalaar, which traded with Embraal Bruiser, leaving behind a 1/1 Thopter token.
However, Dominguez recruited Foundry Inspector to enable a four-mana Ballista Charger the next turn. The ability to ping away small creatures while being a large beatstick was crucial in this matchup. When Karsten added Wayward Giant to the board, Dominguez was happy to crew the Vehicle and force the trade, reducing Karsten's side to a single Thopter token.
Salvatto assisted Dominguez in assessing the complicated board state.
Dominguez reloaded with Thriving Grubs, Aethertorch Renegade and Spireside Infiltrator and Karsten tried to hold the fort with a 5/4 Ambitious Aetherborn. When Karsten added Weldfast Monitor to the board, Dominguez destroy it with Ruinous Gremlin. Thereafter, he crashed in with a 4/3 Thriving Grub and Spireside Infiltrator, which Karsten traded away with his entire board. A replacement 5/4 Ambitious Aetherborn took down Foundry Inspector, but an activation from Aethertorch Renegade finished things off.
The flurry of exchanges in Red-Black was incessant, until it was Dominguez's Thriving Rats against Karsten's Maulfist Doorbuster. If Karsten continued to trade down, he would have no chance of winning so he opted to take 2 damage from Thriving Rats this time, putting him at 2 life.
Aradara Express joined the board and Dominguez no longer had any cards in his hand and neither did he have sufficient power to crew it! With only a 2/3 Thriving Rats and a 1/2 Aethertorch Renegade on the battlefield, Dominguez needed to topdeck any creature with at least 1 power.
“One time, guys,” Dominguez beckoned as he flipped over his next card.
Multiform Wonder made its grand appearance once more and Dominguez swung with his entire team. Carvalho and Salvatto watched Karsten's face in suspense and only heaved a sigh of relief when he extended his hand. With that, trio of Dominguez, Salvatto and Carvalho erupted from their seats and exchanged congratulatory hugs.
Congratulations to Javier Dominguez, Márcio Carvalho, and Luis Salvatto, the winners of Grand Prix Rotterdam 2016!